Biggest Wallet= Best Magician?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Delusional, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. Hey guys,

    I was watching an R Paul Wilson video the other day. In the video, Eric Mead brings up the point that some actors, comedians, and other artists have a conception about magicians that they don't need to be as creative as other artists because they can essentially buy an act. 9:02 in this video (I recommend watching the whole thing)

    Eric brings up the point that many times magicians are viewed as talentless.

    Yes, obviously we know that we can be original in an act we buy in both the execution and presentation of an effect. But what are your thoughts on the idea that simply buying an effect can further your magic and possibly make you a better performer (in the eyes of laypeople)? I mean think about this scenario. A junior in high school decides he wants to start doing the magic. So, he goes on Penguin, buys a pen through dollar effect (which takes minimal skill to execute), performs it at school, and suddenly he's the hit of his school! Is it because he's a great performer? No. It's because of the simple fact that he bought a trick and showed it around school. It takes no talent to hit the "Add to Cart" button on a website. Yet laypeople may probably view the boy described above as talented.

    This is a topic that I think about quite often. I recommend watching the entire video that's posted above. I would like to hear some thoughts on this.

  2. This is definitely an issue. In my opinion, the root cause is our inability to convey a sense of magical process to our audiences. When a miraculous effect occurs with no apparent cause apart from "magic", a sensible lay audience will leap to the most obvious (and often correct) conclusion which is that the performer bought a clever prop. Or that they used "sleight-of-hand", which many laypeople seem to represent in their mind as if it could be learned, start to finish, in an afternoon and therefore dismiss as of no value or interest. Given that this is the base level from which we're working, this general perception of how magic works, the only differentiating factor between magicians, to a lay audience, is the cleverness of the prop. That's what they think they're supposed to be appreciating: the deceptiveness of the puzzle with which they're presented.

    The solution, as I see it, is to think harder about how we present magic. What's more interesting, someone who actually reads your mind, or someone who showed that your card was the only one reversed in a deck? These are both possible effects that can be achieved with the Invisible Deck, but you need to work a bit harder to achieve the former, and not just allow the prop to do all the work. Similarly, what's more interesting, someone who uses properties of electromagnetism to temporarily change the consistency of a certain metal alloy, or someone who showed that a cigarette could appear to pass through the centre of a coin? Again, both achievable with the same gimmick, but the former, more impressive effect, requires the performer to put in far more thought to character and presentation.

    What I'm saying is, if we raised our presentation game so that the props became incidental, this problem would disappear. When our cards, coins, gaffs and massive unnatural boxes become just convenient tools to show off some amazing skill we'd acquired, some quirk of science we'd discovered, or an aspect of human potential we sought to unlock then suddenly we, the performers, become more interesting. At that point, it doesn't matter who's spent the most money, it just matters who's got the most interesting character.
  3. There was a magician winning most of the awards at the under 18 events in the area I grew up. His mom and dad could afford the latest and greatest. I was more of a slight of hand by the Tarbell books type of guy. Magicians knew what I was doing was harder but his stuff was more flash. He used things like a side kick table and a T’Ang dynasty tea chest. I was working with ropes silks and cards. I worked hard to brand myself as a slight of hand artist.

    I worked on my presentation. I would have these great show pieces that were story driven that were almost self working with the filler effects knuckle busters. Most magicians who see my act love it because I make the self working stuff look like the hardest stuff in the world and make the hard stuff look so simple. The lay people watching it love the stories and I get repeat bookings. I have a special Halloween show that is almost pure theatrics. The other thing I do is I have a director and someone who helps with my scripting and stage movements. It really helps.

    Also look at guys like Slydini and Vernon. Their props were card coins thimbles safety pins. Normal everyday objects. The slight of hand guys can show up and borrow everything they need and work for an hour with a a few coins two rubber bands and a thimble. Why the newest props look flashy, people can't really carry them around all the time.
  4. Exactly. One of the best posts I've read in a very long time. Well done.
    I was going to start a new thread about this topic and presenting magic, but I guess this will do also.
    One of the things that kills magic and gives it a bad reputation is the way we present it (duh). Paul Harris also talks about this in his True Astonishment interview.
    There is no build up in A LOT of effects that A LOT of magicians do. And also no "pay off" (in the lacking of a better expression) after the effect. It's like they are running through and effect, just to be over, it's like the previous phases don't matter. Btw I'm having a real hard time expressing myself at the moment since I'm at work.
    Let's take a coin routine for example:
    You show both hands empty, and then you produce a coin from mid air. Then you take it and you split it into two coins. Then back into one, and then for the end you vanish that one coin and are left with empty hands. All of that with the sleeves rolled up.
    An average magician will take 2 minutes max to perform that, giving very little attention to each phase. It would be boom boom boom, over.

    So let's take a look at it from another angle, how it should look like. Or how we would like for it to look like. First of all, you produced a coin from thin air. We have seen that a million times, so we give no attention to it, it's like saying "good day", it's nothing to us. So if it's nothing to us, how can it be something for the audience? I mean, you just created a FREAKING COIN from thin air. People are not supposed to be able to do that. Give it a second to settle, give it meaning, give it attention it deserves. Once YOU do that, so will the audience.
    But instead, we're like "Ok so my hands are empty, sleeves rolled up, and I produce a coin. So if I take this coin and...." like it's a normal thing. Without a second of build up or tension or significance. It's impossible to produce a coin from thin air, so act like it.

    Paul Harris talked about vanishing a coin, and difference between "Ok, if I take this coin and I snap my fingers, it's gone" all done in 2 seconds, and if you really take the time focusing on your closed fist, creating tension, actually vanishing the coin in your mind, and then slowly opening the hand finger by finger. That process takes at least 10-15 seconds, and it gives significance and importance to the vanish.

    Same goes for ACR. "So if I take your card, put it in the middle and snap my finger, it's back on top. Then I take it again, put it in the middle and it's back on top" all done in 5 seconds. You just put their card in the middle and it's back on top. STOP!!! let that sink in. It's something that is not supposed to happen. Give it time, significance and importance. Focus, act, pretend, imagine. No one is supposed to be able to do that. So act like it.

    If you present your effects so that they are over in 20 seconds, or if you don't give it importance, of course people are gonna think it's the prop that did it and not you. Since you are not believable enough. EVERY SINGLE THING you do, should be impossible to do. So slow down, let that sink in, and then continue. Act like you're the only one on the planet that can do that.

    Sorry for the rant, my thoughts are just piled up randomly, but I hope you guys get what I'm trying to say.
  5. Another thing I think is hurting magic is newer magicians need to learn when not to show something. It seems like they want to just go up to random people and do three or four card tricks. People become bored with magic. I hardly do anything outside a paid gig. That way when I do it seems special. It's more of a big deal because I'm showing you something that is just for you.
  6. #6 Delusional, Jan 7, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2014
    Krab 1,

    I just want to address that point you just made. I'm a senior in high school, and I've been doing magic for over five years. So yes, I know in the scheme of things I'm a newer magician (doesn't mean I don't work my butt off at it). And I know I'm talking to someone who has a ton more years of magic under their belt. But still I want to respectfully offer this point...

    For me, if I just performed when I was at paid gigs, I wouldn't feel like a real magician. Granted, my paid gigs are likely pale in comparison to yours, but still. I mean, when I'm out at the supermarket or the mall or at school, and I see a big group of people, I feel like the opportunity to perform is staring me right in the face. Yes, sometimes I will end up not performing for those people. But I can't help but think about the fact that there are other magicians out there, working a hell of a lot harder, performing a hell of a lot more, that would perform for that group in an instant. And in my mind, it's that mix of competition (in my mind) and the drive to better myself as a performer, that makes me feel the need to perform as much as possible. So I do. Performance can really only make you better, right? Even if a performance goes horribly, you still learn from it. So I certainly don't think I'm hurting magic by performing a lot...

    My freshman and sophomore year, I was doing "gigs" but certainly not paid or professional gigs. Mostly for my dad's work friends when they had a Christmas/New Years/Halloween/etc. Party. And that's all I did. I didn't do magic at school, on the street, on stage-- anything like that. My friends and adults (that I performed for) alike would always say "Oh he does magic, but he's very reserved about it." or "He only does magic when its on his terms or when he has a performance." And I started thinking to myself, if I was a real magician, I would share magic with as many people as possible. Why? Because for some reason, in my mind I feel like people are always begging to see magic. Certainly not literally. But I see and experience so many instances where people are standing in line at the grocery store, or sitting down quietly with their friends, or just waiting around with nothing to do, and I see those people and think "Man, magic is just what they need right now. Magic would really brighten their day." And it does. There are so many environments outside a professional performance, where magic is suited. My goal is to perform as much as possible. And I know that sometimes means turning down performances, which I do. I've read Magic and Showmanship by Henning Helms, and I know what he says about atmosphere and timing for effects, and knowing if/why your audience may get bored. But contradictory to your statement, I've never had a close-up performance where the people I'm connecting with become bored. Almost every time they respond like I'm opening their eyes to something new-- something they haven't seen anything like before. I think, like the video says, people don't see a lot of magic. So almost any good magic will be something of value to (most) spectators.

    To address the topic again. It's obvious that you can't buy skill. I mean you can buy instruction on sleights, but you cant buy yourself dexterous fingers, and proficient sleight of hand. Thats something that takes hard work and practice, not money. So I offer this point: People may see an artist perform a show that consists of a magician who has worked years to perfect his craft. Imagine this person does a show with entirely sleight of hand magic. Then an amateur does an act that he bought which requires minimal skill, but is more visual/flashy type magic. I have no doubt that given the right circumstances, and the right amateur, some audiences would walk away liking the amateur more. What are your thoughts on this? Is it fair that magicians can achieve a similar impact on an audience, with greatly varying levels of work?

  7. Of course it's fair. Because the sleight of hand guy can also buy the same tricks. So it's fair, since everybody has a choice. However, I think, no matter how good the prop is, if presentation is lacking, no one will be entertained. They may be baffled and puzzled, but not entertained. Which is what separates a professional from amateur.
  8. Exactly. Hand those off the shelf props to someone like Dave Williamson or Greg Wilson and there would be no doubt about their ability. This is the point. You can't buy a truly magical act. You can buy the props to perform that act, and maybe enough instructions to muddle through it at a just-about-acceptable level. You cannot buy the stagecraft, thinking and practice that goes into marking yourself out as something special. It's not just about sleight-of-hand versus off-the-shelf, because proficiency at arcane card moves is not a guarantee of being a good magician.
  9. Would you feel like a real carpenter if you weren't fixing random people's woodwork? Have you ever thought that those people didn't want to be bothered and were just being polite to sit through the two or three effects you were doing? Do they say time after time "Wow that was wonderful" "How did you do that" or "I wish I could do something like that" instead of do you do private parties? I do something here or there once in a while for people. Hell I have even been known to do sponge magic for a little kid crying in the library when I'm there working on research for an effect. (Yes I make sure the places and events in my stories are something that could have happened. Unlike the casino who claim to have the original Bulldog squeezers from the game Wild Bill was shot at even though Bulldog squeezers didn't come out til a year later...) I do not walk up to random people with a deck of cards and start doing ACR or Here and There. What I do is build up the mystery and mystique. Part of magic becoming a non-art in the eyes of many people is the glut of kids doing "street" magic.

    When I first started I spent four years working on my act before non-magicians saw anything. Then when I finally started I would do street fairs and festivals with my mentor as well as doing volunteer shows at hospitals and libraries. I also wanted to just show everyone what I could do. My mentor and another magician named Dorian Grey told me I should really stop that as it waters down how special magic really was. That night after Dorian's lecture and diner, my mentor gave me a copy of The New Yorker with the Ricky Jay profile. It really opened my eyes about how to frame your magic in settings. How to make it more intimate. To make that short moment special for the person seeing the magic. It also made me understand why I hardly ever saw my mentor do any magic when we were out somewhere before or after a club meeting.

    Later when I became, the house magician for a radio station people knew I was a magician, but they knew that if I showed you something it was just for you. That it was a special moment just for you. They knew to me magic was an art and it shouldn't be flaunted. That is why 15 years later I will run into people for whom I did a one off effect for. They remember me and the effect. Next time someone one tells you they saw a magicians do X, Y or Z ask them who the magician was. 99% of the time they remember the effect and not the magician. Why? There was no connection to the performer. He was just someone doing tricks. There is a reason people still have signed cards from me all these years later and they remember me by name. I made that moment in time magical.

    Then again, I don't think younger magicians really understand that this "street" magic thing they do didn't really exist before the David Blaine special. Even then it was just a way to film a TV special. If you go back and watch it though you will see he is only working for a couple of people at a time. He brings them in close. But it was for TV. It wasn't how he made his living. Not to say there isn't street magic. You build a crowd and pass a hate. You get a licences to work as a busker.

    What it comes down to is how well does the magician perform. How is his stage presence. How is his showmanship. Does the magician do the effect stock or does he take the time to make it his own?

    Also do not think that an amateur magicians only uses the store bought props. Some of the finest slight of hand artist I have ever know were amateur magicians. Nothing wrong an amateur magician.
  10. I hate box magicians... there are a lot here in mexico... talentless guys with shows that go like this "for my next trick...I´ll use box number 2"...

    But.. is not denying that buying a big prop can really boost your show.. and not because the magic the prop make, but because it looks you have production in your show and that you are serious in this stuff...

    My theater show puts great deal on the sleight of hand and I also have some big props on stage but not necesarily magic props ( I have a big Canvas, a floating table, another vintage table, one of those things where you hang your stuff)trust me, people notice when you are proficient on skill and when you don´t have skill and have to use props... they say it and to be honest I see they prefer the magician that has skill, because even when a box magician has a great trick, they will always think that the prop does the work and they remember the trick but not the magician....
  11. I personally don't see anything wrong with teenagers going up to people and awkwardly performing for them. Nobody starts performing in public with charisma and character and confidence. You have to learn to stumble and fall, before you can get to a point where you are confident with a routine or script.
  12. That is why I started in hospitals and retirement homes. It was real world conditions with out having to interrupt strangers on the street who might not really want to see anything. Also it's good karma doing charity work for the sick and the elderly.
  13. True, you just have to be careful and make sure you don't end up forever being type cast'd as the "Free Gig" guy.

    I would also suggest performing for people at the park or mall. It doesn't matter HOW you got your experience/"paid your dues" as long as you did it one way or another.
  14. In my personal opinion the reason for the 'talentless magician' comment is because most people doing magic are basically talentless. Or rather, they're just not entertaining. They may be talented in the sense that they can do complicated sleight of hand, but they are boring. To the public, that's the same thing. I rarely watch magicians perform because usually I spend the whole time irritated.

    I don't care if someone is using props or sleight of hand. I don't care if they're not actually using anything. If I walk away having had a good time, that's all I care about. Whether it's a skillful sleight of hand display like Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants, a scary seance like Derren Brown did, a grand illusion show like Penn & Teller ... don't care. Just be interesting, entertaining, meaningful, hopefully all of that.

    The methods do not matter. All that matters are the emotions and thoughts you inspire for your audience.
  15. I just caught this post. . . pardon my tardiness. . .

    Since the advent of Talking Movies magic has been pushed to the status of being a "filler act" but there is much more involved when it comes to the art's fall from grace, starting with really bad magicians; not just technically but in way of personality and character. Many of them are rude, womanizing, drunks, junkies and other such negatives and sadly, this includes being tied to sexual predators that prey on children (along with Clowns and most other typical child entertainers). In other words, "WE" are our own worse enemy when it comes to the decline of magic and magicians and status. BUT, there is another side to the coin. . .

    A lot of people, especially talent buyers & agents, know the greater truth and rather than hire a "Magician" they seek out a specific act that is established so that they know the quality of performances as well as the professionalism of that individual/team. This is one of the biggest reasons why video is so important in today's world along with references. If you stink or have a bad reputation you're doomed.

    THE INSTANT MAGICIAN argument is weak and it's up to us to prove it. I actually encountered this once with a rather arrogant client and so I challenged him to get the level of reaction I get when doing a simple close up act composed of the Cups & Balls and Sponge. . . .needless to say, he failed miserably and I got the job. . . in another situation (far uglier) there was a guy at the Magic Castle boasting about how he stole a job from the Falkenstiens . . . he went down to Hollywood Magic, bought a gaffed blindfold and undercut Glenn's price by $1,000.00 and stole the gig. Such antics not only proving that certain magicians are the scum of the earth but likewise proves that just because you're a magician you can't replicate an act that's been done for over 30 years and is perfected. . . the dude fell flat with the client and turned them against ever hiring another magician for years. . . I think it was Ammar that finally won him back.

    Now I admittedly didn't watch the videos in that I wasn't concerned about what they did, etc. I was concerned about the over all issue, so I hope I've shined a little bit of light on things. . . it's up to each of us, as individuals, to change public opinion and that's hard to do when the majority of us (Magicians/Mentalists) tend to be hobbyists that just want to show off vs. work at the task of being better.

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